SPJ Hawaii: May 2023 Newsletter

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Hawaii journalists shield law is restored

Office of the Governor

Gov. Josh Green has signed a bill that would restore Hawaii law protecting confidential news sources of journalists.

Last month, the Hawaii Legislature passed House Bill 1502, which would re-establish the so-called Shield Law.

The measure was based on the 2008 law worked out by media law attorney Jeff Portnoy, then-Attorney General Mark Bennett and journalism professor Gerald Kato. It was a foresighted law that granted the source protection to those people who practiced journalism whether in traditional media or on the Internet.

HB1502 finds its roots in the 2008 law, which blocked the compelled disclosure of a confidential source of a journalist or newscaster. It also covered online journalists who published news of substantial public interest.

"We believe it achieved that delicate balance to protect the free flow of information in a democratic society while balancing the legitimate need for information in pursuit of justice," said retired University of Hawaii journalism professor Gerald Kato in written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Such protections are essential to the preservation of First Amendment freedoms embedded in our federal and state constitutions."

Today, Wyoming is the only state without a Shield Law or other legal protections for confidential sources. In 2013, the Hawaii Legislature did not extend the expiration of the 2008 law after some battles over making the law permanent.

The original Hawaii law was foresighted, envisioning that there were people doing the work of news reporters but not working for newspapers or radio or TV stations. Bloggers, such as Ian Lind, provide a service using the tools of a reporter but do not work for a traditional news outlet. (The law did not cover people who pass on information through social media.)

The law was in effect for three years and did not cause problems, and was tested in court once, in the case of a filmmaker working on documentary about Native Hawaiian burial sites, an issue clearly of public interest and concern. A committee of the state Supreme Court also had recommended that the law be made permanent.

The bill would grant the source- and note-protection in all civil cases except for libel cases in which the reporter is a named party. In criminal cases, there are some exceptions:

  • If there is probable cause to believe that the journalist has committed a crime or is about to commit a crime

  • If the journalist observes an alleged crime, he or she will have to testify as a witness but does not have to reveal information gathered from a source.

  • In cases where there is substantial evidence that the information is important to the investigation of a felony, a three-part test would apply: The information cannot be obtained through alternative sources; the information is not available elsewhere; and the information is relevant.

  • If the reporter has information critical to prevent serious harm to life or public safety

    Stirling Morita, president of Hawaii Chapter SPJ, said, "The passage of this bill is sweet after the battles to make the 2008 law permanent. It validates the hard work of Jeff Portnoy, Mark Bennett and Gerry Kato in crafting this one-of-a-kind legislation.

    "It would help to ensure the free flow of information that will benefit not only journalists, but the public as well.".

  • Regional conference will be Nov. 20-21

    The Region 11 conference of the Society of Professional Journalists will be hosted by the Hawaii chapter Nov. 20-21 at the University of Hawaii Campus Center.

    The Hawaii-planned conference in 2020 was canceled because of the pandemic, and the regional conference was eventually held online, put on by national SPJ.

    The chapter was put back on the schedule for 2022, but planning proved problematic, and the Los Angeles chapter held a full one-day conference. The Hawaii conference was then scheduled for 2023.

    Region 11 covers Hawaii, Guam, Arizona, California and Nevada.

    2023 SPJ Interns

    The Hawaii Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has awarded internships to 10 students.

    The interns' pay is split between participating media organizations and the Hawaii SPJ chapter, which gets its funds from the Gridiron Show, which hasn't gone on stage since 2019 because of the pandemic.

    Here are your 2023 summer interns:

  • Honolulu Star-Advertiser -
  • Mia Anzalone, Occidental College

  • Honolulu Civil Beat -
  • Victoria Budiono, University of Hawaii at Manoa

  • Hawaii magazine -
  • Shawna Takaki, Kapiolani Community College

  • Hawaii Business magazine -
  • Victoria DeJournett,University of Hawaii at Manoa

  • HONOLULU magazine -
  • Alicia Lou, University of Hawaii at Manoa

  • Hawaii Public Radio -
  • Taylor Cozloff, Eugene Lang School of Liberal Arts

  • ESPN Honolulu -
  • Annaliese Gumboc, University of British Columbia

    Wally Zimmermann Internships in Television Broadcast Journalism

  • Hawaii News Now -
  • Arielle Argel, Washington State University

  • KHON -
  • Trevor Myers, Brigham Young University at Provo

  • KITV -
  • Shelby Mattos, University of Hawaii at Manoa


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